When the Miami Dolphins drafted Laremy Tunsil, they saw a left tackle whose combination of footwork, balance, length and strength and ability to slide and redirect with ease was as good as any left tackle evaluated in the last 20 years.
They promptly played him at left guard.
Look, it’s reasonable to understand why they played him at left guard. Branden Albert was a veteran left tackle with Pro Bowl experience.
And yet it’s reasonable to suggest now that Tunsil, having succeeding the departed Albert, has Pro Bowl potential. Tunsil also has All-Pro potential. And yes, Hall of Fame potential.
OK, Tunsil hasn’t started a full NFL season at the blind side. But this is to explain how high the ceiling is for Tunsil, according to people who evaluate such things for a living.
While Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen wasn’t proclaiming Tunsil should be fitted for a gold Hall of Fame jacket this offseason, he was effusive in praise in a recent news conference.
“The confidence level is extremely high that he can excel at tackle,” Christensen said. “It’s his natural position.”
At Ole Miss, Tunsil was such a dominant, smothering force against many of the nation’s best pass rushers, coach Hugh Freeze told the Daily Dolphin he never even pondered what Tunsil would look like inside at guard.
But Miami now feels Tunsil’s inside experience will help him be even more aggressive at the edge.
“Whatever you learned inside, which does teach you some skills you can’t learn outside, where guys are a little tighter on you in the run blocking and bigger guys,” Christensen said. “I think all those combined will put Laremy way ahead.”
Last season, Tunsil flat-out said he thought it was easier for him to play left tackle (when filling in for an injured Albert).
And this offseason, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier noted Tunsil “was very excited for the move to left tackle.”
More importantly, Grier and Miami feel Tunsil will be even better at left tackle.
“‘B.A.’ (Branden Albert) did a great job for us while he was here,” Grier said. “He’s a true pro. I think he did a great job mentoring Laremy last year at guard; but for us, we just felt it was time to let Laremy go to left tackle. He’s played that his whole life.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase has noted that Tunsil has the advantage of knowing what the responsibilities of the tackles and guards are. It’s about understanding the big picture.
Gase has no doubt Tunsil will excel in 2017.
“We’ve seen him enough,” Gase said. “I mean we drafted him in the first round because we felt like he was an elite left tackle. We felt like we had a special player there. When we watched him practice at left tackle, it just looks different. When you watch him, he doesn’t look like a guy his size. He moves so smooth.”
At times in his rookie season, Tunsil admitted to some trepidation. He was feeling his way into the NFL life and locker room. He was slowly gaining confidence in his role in a new position and steadily improved in his knowledge of assignments such as pulling on long runs by Jay Ajayi.
At one point last season, Tunsil said his biggest NFL adjustment was learning the varied blitzes used in the pros even in comparison to the SEC.
In 2017, there is every reason to believe Tunsil is ready to become a dominant, elite NFL left tackle.
“It gives us a lot of confidence in him and I think he’ll have a lot of confidence going into the thing,” Christensen said. “It doesn’t make it an easy position or an easy job. It still is a tough job out there and you still catch the best pass rusher and you’re still on the edge and all those things. But I do think his comfort level going into it will be really good, really high.”
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